Committee recommends dismissing ethics complaint

Thu, 09/10/2009 - 3:29pm
By: Ben Nelms

Committee recommends dismissing ethics complaint

Regardless the words used by Senoia Councilman Jeff Fisher, the ethics committee formed to hear the complaint by Heritage Pointe subdivision resident Don Rehman decided Sept. 6 that there was no intention to cause harm. The ethics violation alleged in the 33-page complaint and its addendums were dismissed on a 4-0 vote. The City Council will vote Sept. 21 to accept or reject the committee’s decision.

The ethics complaint in one sense appeared to center around a comment by Fisher to Rehman at a recent council meeting and in subsequent emails from Fisher that were posted on the Heritage Pointe subdivision email bulletin board related to Rehman’s ongoing concern over traffic safety issues on Rockaway Road and the Heritage Point Parkway entrance to Rehman’s subdivision. But the hearing was also a convoluted a mix of past and current events involving Rehman and Fisher and their past association on behalf of their respective subdivisions off Rockaway Road.

Rehman in his complaint described some of the statements by Fisher in emails posted on the community’s bulletin board as “two abusive, offensive and devastatingly harmful e-mails” which were written “in the hopes of humiliating and shaming me in the neighborhood in which I live.”

Some on the ethics panel clearly stated that they did not like Fisher’s choice of words. But that dislike did not raise the situation to a level of an ethics violation. But in the end the committee voted 4-0 to dismiss the complaint, noting their position that Fisher’s choice of words in emails characterizing Rehman as being “harassing” and “intimidating” to others in area communities was not intended to do harm.

As the ethics hearing began Rehman requested, and was given the go-ahead, to cross examine witnesses. Rehman in his opening statement said that Fisher had “accused me of harassing and intimidating three subdivisions. Those words are very serious words.”

Rehman and Fisher in their various statements referenced that they had experienced both pleasure and displeasure in their past dealing with each other.

“What’s important is what the elected person does with that information,” Rehman said of Fisher’s perspective on the issues and his communication of that perspective and later calling Fisher’s words an abuse of power. “You are shaming and humiliating that person before their neighbors. It almost makes you feel like a worthless piece of humanity.”

As the hearing progressed several residents from Rockaway Road subdivisions spoke on behalf of both men, with some saying Rehman spoke for them and others saying that Rehman himself could be verbally intimidating and threatening. One Heritage Point neighbor described a series of interactions with Rehman as essentially being characteristic of the way Rehman said Fisher had acted with him. “He makes demands and if you don’t follow them he tries to make you feel bad. He intimidates others but he doesn’t intimidate me,” the resident said.

Noting the history of their numerous interactions in dealing with issues affecting their subdivisions Fisher said he, too, had experienced both pleasure and displeasure in his association with Rehman. Fisher said that in his he email statements characterizing Rehman he could have substituted “harassing” and “intimidating” with words that could have been either softer or stronger as a accurate portrayal of Rehman’s tendencies. In the end, Fisher stuck by his words.

Rehman in his closing added a new twist to the matter, stating that, “I believe this came about because (Fisher) assumed I was going to run for office.” Fisher was appointed to the City Council earlier in the year and is running for the seat in November.

Committee member Paul Ferguson near the end of the meeting said that if Fisher was out to do harm to Rehman it would have been an ethics violation.

“But I don’t think it was intended to harm. He was trying to follow the code,” Ferguson said immediately prior to the motion and unanimous vote to dismiss.

City Administrator Richard Ferry said Thursday that the City Council at its Sept. 21 meeting will vote to accept or reject the ethics committee’s decision.

Rehman had been a regular speaker at a number of recent City Council meetings where he cited line-of-sight concerns and the potential for traffic accidents at the Rockaway Road intersection. The council in previous meetings had acted on the recommendations that were in their control. A lingering concern expressed several time by Rehman, the deep-sloped grade and limited visibility along Rockaway just north of the intersection, is a Coweta County or Georgia Dept. of Transportation matter for which the city has no control. At one meeting Rehman asked the city to essentially produce a statement acknowledging its liability. Rehman was told by Mayor Robert Belisle that the city could not make such a statement.

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Gene61's picture
Submitted by Gene61 on Thu, 09/10/2009 - 8:40pm.

Um ...... You had your day in the sunlight, its done... In the end, the decision will always be ,

"There was no intention to cause harm. The ethics violation alleged in the 33-page complaint and its addendums were dismissed on a 4-0 vote. "

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